How to win the winnable war? Oil

Published 10:57 pm Monday, December 11, 2006

Did anybody really need a leaked memo from the National Security Agency to figure out that Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is incapable of stopping the carnage in Iraq? Given that his political power depends on factions allied with Shiite militias behind much of the carnage, Maliki has never fit the white hat and brass star in this wretched desert saga. Insult to injury, he even left the president in Jordan this week, cooling his heels, as they say, when Maliki postponed a summit meeting after the memo leaked.

Then again, what about Bush? Why hasn’t he been able to bring order to Iraq with the U.S. military? Here’s the answer: As a creature of Shiite thug-o-crats, Maliki’s hands are tied. As creatures of political correctness, we have tied our own hands.

And almost literally. The PC rules of engagement imposed on American soldiers have as much to do with the chaotic limbo our troops find themselves in as failed political policies. Closely held, these rules — burdensome constraints, really — have become obvious to everyone, including our foes. News reports tell us potential targets in Iraq must be engaged in hostile acts, or show “clear intent,” before our men and women can take a shot at them. Mosques where insurgents seek shelter and store arms are no-go zones for American soldiers. We don’t even shut down mosque loudspeakers that broadcast incitement against our troops. Marine Maj. Jeffrey O’Neill put it this way to the Christian Science Monitor: “Many would ask, What other war would we allow the enemy to broadcast calls for our defeat for the sake of cultural sensitivity?”

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The answer is no other war, at least no other war fought to win. But we don’t even know what victory looks like — unless anyone seriously believes victory looks like just another basic death-to-America-and-Israel sharia state dominated by Shiites with ties to jihadist Iran. Next to such a prospect, chaotic limbo doesn’t look good, but it does postpone that sure-to-be nasty shock of recognition.

But is our choice only “victory” or else? (Forget Plan B, soon to come from the blue-ribbon lunatics — I mean, “realists” — of the Iraq Survey Group, who are expected to argue that it’s in America’s national interest to “solve” Iraq by seeking help from the terrorist likes of Iran and Syria.) And what is “or else,” anyway?

“Or else” refers to the cataclysm that’s supposed to occur should we decide that remaking Islamic culture isn’t our strong suit or in our national interest, and thus refocus our mission so as to ensure that Islamic culture doesn’t remake us. Depending on its purpose and execution, withdrawal — or better, redeployment — wouldn’t necessarily lead to cataclysm.

Here’s an “or else” scenario from Nawaf Obaid, an adviser to the Saudi government, that actually sounds promising — not a term that usually springs to my mind to describe Saudi scenarios. Contemplating what he would call an unwelcome American withdrawal from Iraq, Obaid writes that the Saudi government just might fill the breach out of “religious responsibility” to Iraq’s Sunni minority. Saudi Arabia, “the de facto leader of the world’s Sunni community,” Obaid writes, just might decide to support Iraq’s Sunni fighters, just as Iran has been supporting Iraq’s Shiite fighters, to avert a possible “full-blown ethnic cleansing.”

Imagine: Sunni Saudi Arabia vs. Shiite Iran — and nary an American soldier ordered to pull his PC punches in the crossfire. But there’s more. Obaid continues: King Abdullah might also “decide to strangle Iranian funding of the (Shiite) militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties …. The result would be to limit Tehran’s ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.”

I like. If Saudi Arabia “strangled” Iran’s economy, that would also strangle Iran’s capacity to fund its nuclear blackmail program, not to mention Hezbollah and other murderous proxies. And what was that the Saudi adviser said about cutting the price of crude oil in half?

A Saudi-Iranian, Sunni-Shiite rift over Iraq sounds like a win-win situation for the United States, maybe even better than the Sino-Soviet rivalry of the Cold War. This time around, instead of nuclear weapons to build in the interim, we would have something even more liberating to work on — energy independence.